Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book review: Online Reputation Management for Dummies

This post, originally from the "Teaching PR" blog,  is used here with permission from the author, Karen Miller Russell.

Two points to clear up before I review Online Reputation Management for Dummies by Lori Randall Stradtman. First, I'll disclose that I know the author and have invited her to guest lecture in my class. She's also helped me with some work on How Mysterious!, my book review blog and Twitter account.

Second, the title. My 8-year-old was horrified that someone actually used the word "dummies" in a book and kept insisting that I'm not a dummy. (Good to know.) If you aren't familiar with it, there is an entire series of books called something or other for Dummies, which is only meant to signify that the book assumes you're entirely new to the subject and will explain even the most basic of concepts.

When Lori first told me about the project, I assumed she was working on personal reputation management, and the book does have some of that. But it's most helpful to small-to-medium businesses who don't have a PR agency but need an employee or team of employees to monitor and participate in building an organization's online reputation.

The book is divided into five parts (with a sixth section dedicated to helpful lists, a standard feature of books in the Dummies series): Getting Started, Organizing Your Teams, Listening, Establishing Your Reputation, and Responding to Crisis. Each part contains several chapters with both explanations of the basic concepts and practical, hands-on advice about what a person tasked with online reputation management should be doing.

Stradtman points out that you should first learn how you or the organization and its competition look online and then set goals before launching into content creation. She includes careful instructions on how to protect your privacy through platform settings and through creating strong passwords. The book also includes advice on developing social media policies, choosing a monitoring tool, identifying keywords, joining networks, and creating content.

The book is fun to read, with lots of good examples and Lori's sense of humor peeking through. My favorite part was her "Hierarchy of Needs," adapted from Maslow but applied to brand evangelists (pp. 262-63). Starting at the bottom, "Knowledge," and building to the top, "Recognition," Stradtman shows how companies can energize brand evangelists who already love the company. I also liked that she consistently emphasized that behaving well -- building communities organically, participating with transparency and authenticity, telling the truth -- is the best way to protect your online reputation.

We've already established that I'm not a dummy (thanks, kid), so I didn't expect to learn much from Online Reputation Management for Dummies, but I found myself dogearing pages to come back to later -- search-for-pay sites that aggregate personal information, sites that allow you to create your own infographics, sites that attempt to rate influencers (not just Klout and Kred), and so forth.

This book would be useful to anyone who's new to using social media for business purposes. It won't, in my opinion, replace a degree in public relations, but reading it would prevent an employee or job seeker from making any egregious online errors and help them establish a positive presence as well.


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